Starting a new year in high school isn't always easy, especially when there are so many new students and teachers to meet! But the first days of school don't have to be awkward, as long as you know how to take that first step to get to know each other.
Here, we'll break down twenty of our favorite ice breakers for high school students to really get to know their fellow students at the beginning of the school year.
Basic Icebreakers for High Schoolers
1. Tell Me What You Love
Have each student write down a list of their favorites (such as favorite class, favorite sport, favorite musician, and favorite family recipe). Then, collect the lists, read them aloud to your batch of students, and see if they can guess who each list belongs to!
Learn more: Dianne Mason (TPT)
2. Focus on the Favorites
Ask the first student to name their favorite school subject. Once they call out their favorite subject, they should ask the next student to say their favorite thing from another category (e.g., favorite foods, favorite color, favorite animal, etc.) The goal is to think of new topics to ask about while also answering the questions as quickly as possible.
Learn more: Krista Gilbert
3. Experience Bingo
For this icebreaker activity, make some bingo cards before class; you can use a bingo card template or you can make one based on what you already know about your students. When a student finds another who has that experience, they mark off the box with their friend's name. Experienced students are really popular in this game!
Learn more: Paper Trail Design
4. Chain Story
Students work together to write a story about the first day of school on a single piece of paper. However, as they pass the paper, fold it so that they can only see the most recent sentence written. Then read the entire story to the class -- it's usually hilarious!
Learn more: Ice Breakers
5. Chain Poetry
This activity for students is really similar to the previous one. However, instead of writing a story, the goal is to make a poem. You can add some restrictions such as, "It needs to be romantic," or "Describe a specific place or event."
Learn more: National Writing Project
6. The 6-Word Story
This excellent icebreaker incorporates some creative writing. Each student should write a story using only six words, and then share their story with the class. The most famous example is the "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." See what your class of students comes up with!
Learn more: Reputation Today
7. Classroom Scavenger Hunt
Direct students to find a list of items in your classroom or school. Make your clues as specific or general as you like!
Learn more: Dianne Mason (TPT)
Circle Games for High Schoolers
8. "I Have Spoken"
In a circle, students get the chance to say as much (or as little) as they want about anything in 20 seconds. At the end of their time, they say, "I have spoken," and everyone replies "Ho!" Then the turn passes to the next person in the circle.
Learn more: The Linking Network
9. String of Names
For this icebreaker game, you'll need several yards of string. Give the string to one student and ask them to pass it to another student across the circle. The second student must say the name of the first student, then pass it to a third student. The third student must say the name of the second and the first student. The game continues until the string forms a web and the final student has to recite everyone's name in backward order.
Learn more: Snack Nation
10. "I'm a _______!"
For this improv activity students stand in a circle. One student steps into the circle and says "I'm a ______!" and then names an object and acts as the object. Then, another student enters the circle and "becomes" a related object. A third student does the same, and they form a little scene. The group chooses one object to stay, and the next two students form a new scene, acting as two different objects.
Learn more: Improve Encyclopedia
11. Human Knot
Students stand in a circle and join hands with two random people in the circle. This creates a human knot, and the goal is to untangle it. Make it competitive with larger groups by dividing students into two circles/teams and seeing who can get untangled the fastest!
Learn more: Ice Breaker Ideas
12. "I'm Going to Bring..."
Start by saying, "I'm going for a picnic (or on vacation, or to the beach), and I'm going to bring" and then name a picnic item that starts with the letter "A." The next student in the circle says "I'm going for a picnic and I'm going to bring," and then they repeat your item and then add an item that starts with B. Continue around the circle, adding an item that starts with the next letter of the alphabet each time.
Learn more: Howcast
Outdoor Icebreakers for High Schoolers
13. Circle Sitting Down
This icebreaker activity is perfect for the great outdoors because it requires a lot of space. Have students stand in a circle and then turn sideways so that each student's chest faces the back of the person to their right. Once they're close enough, have them "sit down" on the lap of the person behind them. If everyone does it at the same time, they become a circle sitting down!
Learn more: Games 4 Youth Groups
14. Make a Map
For this quick activity, assign each student a place on your campus or in your town. Have them arrange themselves as a "map" of this place, and discuss the importance of these spots.
Learn more: Venture Team Building
15. Nature Scavenger Hunt
Direct students to find specific things out in the wild. Make your clues as specific or general as you like!
Learn more: Pinterest
16. The Curtain Game
Divide the students into two teams, and have them sit on either side of a blanket curtain held up by two people. For each round, each team sends one person to the curtain. Then, the curtain drops, and the two people in the middle must shout the other's name. The first person to shout the correct name wins, and the other person joins their team. The team that brings all other students to their team wins.
Learn more: Ice Breakers
High-Energy Icebreakers for High Schoolers
17. Human Machine
Think of one action or task, and explain that all together, you'll become a machine to perform that task. Students add on one by one as a different piece of the machine until everyone has a role in the human-machine.
Learn more: Beat by Beat
18. Stay Serious!
Students stand back-to-back, and then jump and face each other. The first one to smile or laugh is out!
Learn more: Trainer Bubble
19. Simon Says
This classic playground game is also fun for high school students, and it's great to see how they react to each other's instructions.
Learn more: Considerable
20. Drum Circle
The first student starts with a simple beat or rhythm. They can clap, tap a pencil, or snap their fingers. Students add to the rhythm one by one until you have a real jam going!
Learn more: Small World Experience